Friday, August 12, 2011

"This Above All..."

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow,
as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

--William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

We are increasingly a rudderless society without a compass, an anchor, masts or sails. Words of wisdom, such as those given by Polonius to his son Laertes, are increasingly meaningless in an exponentially complex world.

I've always tried to live by Polonius' advice. I'm not 100 percent successful, of course, but I really do try, and I am puzzled, saddened, and frustrated by the seemingly pervasive evidence they are, for so many, utterly meaningless.

I really try to be what I think every human should be: open minded, compassionate, honorable, and respectful of the rights of others. Again, I don't always succeed, but that doesn't keep me from trying. But while I sincerely believe that my way of looking at/doing things is the proper way, I unequivocally believe that every human being has the right to think and believe what he/she wants--up to the point where those thoughts and beliefs infringe upon the rights of others to do the same.

It quite sincerely would never occur to me to deny others their right to do and think as they wish, again with the caveat mentioned above. I have never operated on the theory that a crime--or a thousand crimes--committed by a member/members of a specific national, racial, religious, or ethnic group automatically condemns every single member of that group.

I have a I'm sure all of us do...who is intelligent, educated, and generally a nice guy, who keeps forwarding me the most egregiously vile, hate-filled, irrational and illogical anti-Obama and anti-Muslim diatribes. And I am stunned and saddened every time I get one--though all I generally need to do is read the heading of the message to know to delete it without reading it.

The issue is whether, if this is the way he, and so many more like him, truly feel, can he be considered "being true" to himself?

As our society becomes exponentially more complex, and more reliant on technology, we lose more and more control over our own individual lives, lashing out becomes more virulent and violent. We become increasingly willing, in our frustration, to accept concepts we never would accept had we more a sense of control over our own lives. Race and religion become magnates for virulent over-reaction.

It is our nature to seek the simple, even in a world which is no longer simple. Watch tv crime-reality shows ("Cops," "Bait Car," etc.) and it is easy to come away with the conclusion that the vast majority of criminals in the United States are either blacks or hispanics. These two groups statistically account for the bulk of the prison population in the U.S. Simplism steps in and says, "Well of course! Just look at the way they dress; listen to the way they talk! Their crimes against the English language alone should be grounds for incarceration. Clearly, they are inferior."

And yet not one person in ten, secretly or openly relishing this perceived inferiority, gives a moment's thought to the fact that the problem is far more deeply rooted in education and opportunity than in skin color or ethnicity.

Hatred is a weapon for those who feel powerless, and it is increasingly the weapon of choice in our losing battle with technology.

And what has Polonius's advice to do with anything? What does being true to one's self matter when we are all seemingly aboard a sinking ship? Well, for me, it is a life vest to which I can cling, and hope it may somehow help me to survive the storm.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

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